Tag Archives: google.org

How we’re helping military spouses find job success

Having grown up with a Marine veteran father, and then marrying a commissioned Air Force officer, I know firsthand the challenges that spouses and families face when it comes to military life. One month before my wedding, I learned that my partner would be relocating for his role in the military. Though my career was flourishing, I needed to quickly find a new role, in a new office, with a completely different culture. Though it all worked out in the end, my spouse and I had to live apart for some time, making the first few months of our marriage a little more challenging than your typical newlywed experience. 


These days, I’m proud to work at Google, a company that supports transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses in meaningful ways every day, whether they are looking to grow their skills, find a job, or start a business. One of those ways is with Google committing to offering paid leave benefits up to 5 days to military spouses and domestic partners experiencing changes of location due to military orders or those preparing for a deployment or activation. We recently conducted research surveying more than 1,500 military spouses to learn more about the military spouse experience. Below are some of our key learnings from the survey, which was conducted in partnership with Hiring our Heroes, a nationwide initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, with the support of a Google.org grant. As I read through this report, I related to so much of what these spouses said, and saw their stories reflected in my own. 


COVID-19 has changed a lot about the way we work, in a very short period of time. And even though the landscape of work has changed, this research remains relevant as so many Americans are looking to adjust to the new normal of remote work, while still others are seeking out opportunities to up-skill, re-skill or start new businesses. 


Many military spouses face challenges when looking for work, but we always get creative to make career and business choices that work for us and our families. Some want to open their own businesses, in an attempt to maximize flexibility and portability. While 76 percent of military spouses indicated that they were interested in starting a business, fewer had actually made the leap into business ownership.

Those who had already started their own businesses often did so with an initial investment of less than $1,000, but felt that aside from raising capital, they lacked skills in marketing and social media to maximize their business potential. 


To help military spouses learn the skills they need to help their businesses succeed, we’ve worked with Hiring our Heroes to curate a series of custom-made minicourses in the Primer app for military spouses, on topics like running a business and maximizing productivity while maintaining work-life balance. These new minicourses build on a series Grow with Google launched last year


Whether starting a business, finding a new position or exploring training and education opportunities, military spouses said they often felt overwhelmed and unsure of how to get started. While the outpouring of support for the military spouse community has been incredibly positive, navigating the vast array of government, nonprofit and corporate programs designed to support our community  sometimes creates anxiety and confusion.


That’s why Google is continuing our work with Hiring our Heroes by launching the MilSpouse Career Roadmap. This interactive hub combines a variety of tools and resources that support military spouses in building careers that move with them, like Google’s remote work search feature, and education and employment resources provided by the Department of Defense’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities office.  


More than 80 percent of survey respondents said they would pursue additional training and education to build careers that were portable. To help, we’ve made Google.org grants to support scholarships through Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families to make Google’s IT Professional Certificate available to military spouses to get them the skills they need to find work in a fast-growing field. 


Audri Vergara, a mom who left her career to become a stay-at-home parent, is one heartening example from the research. Though working at home and taking care of her son kept Audri busy, she decided to complete the Google IT Professional Certificate through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Afterwhich, Audri was able to boost her resume and find a new full-time position where she uses skills from the certificate program. 


I hope that Google’s research and actions to support military families will continue to support people like Audri while also encouraging other organizations to help empower military spouses, too. To learn more about Grow with Google’s tools and resources for the military community, visit grow.google/militaryspouses.


“Buscándole:” Finding ways to help Latino small businesses

Every day for the past 47 years, my mother-in-law, who my kids and I love to call Nana, wakes up, has her required cup of cafecito and gets ready to go to work. She’s a hairstylist and the owner of Carmen’s Beauty Salon in Imperial Beach, California, and she wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. She’s seen her regulars for decades, cutting and styling their hair through weddings, graduations and more. 

Carmen's Beauty Salon

My mother-in-law giving my son a trim at her salon. 

But in 2020, being a hairstylist—or any type of business owner—is tough. She is just one of the more than 30 million small business owners across the country who are struggling with the impact from the global pandemic. In many cases they are also trying to juggle other responsibilities like distance learning, taking care of sick or elderly family members and simply making ends meet. People like my Nana have been top of mind for me as we all cope with our current reality.

As we kick off Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to celebrate Latino culture, regardless of who you are or how you identify—whether it’s Hispanic, Latinx, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Black, Brazilian, Latino or any other way.  I also can't help but try to buscarle, which means to find a way around a problem or challenge, how to help small businesses like my Nana’s hair salon. And I'm glad to say Google is finding a way, too.

Today, we’re announcing a $3 million Google.org grant to the Hispanics in Philanthropy PowerUp Fund, to directly support hundreds of Latino-owned small businesses with access to capital and the training they need to successfully recover and continue to grow. This grant builds on Google’s $180 million commitment to support minority- and women-led small businesses across the country through the Grow with Google Small Business Fund and Google.org Grants Program.

We’re also providing free tools and training to help any Latino-owned businesses adapt and grow through Grow with Google’s "Paso a Paso" workshops and online training programs. Businesses can sign up for our new Google Ads workshop in Spanish, a special panel featuring resilient Latino entrepreneurs via OnAir En Español and continue their digital marketing training with Primer app minicourses in English or Spanish. We’re expanding our Digital Coaches program and kicking off a partnership with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce so Latino-owned businesses can get more localized support in their communities.

Beyond helping small businesses, we have lots more in store during Hispanic Heritage Month at Google. I encourage you to explore our updated Latino Cultures in the U.S. collection within Google Arts & Culture, where J. Balvin can share with you the untold story behind Fernando Botero’s “July 20th." Also, be on the lookout for our collaboration with Pop-Up Magazine, where we’ll celebrate Latinos across the country through virtual storytelling and art.

You'll also see us spotlighting Latino businesses around the country in our new "Buscándole" national campaign encouraging people to support neighborhood businesses. And today's Doodle features Felicitas Mendez, a Puerto Rican American civil rights pioneer who was a small business owner herself. Combined, we hope all these efforts can not only celebrate the Latino community during Hispanic Heritage Month, but also help members of our community thrive for the long term.

“Buscándole:” Finding ways to help Latino small businesses

Every day for the past 47 years, my mother-in-law, who my kids and I love to call Nana, wakes up, has her required cup of cafecito and gets ready to go to work. She’s a hairstylist and the owner of Carmen’s Beauty Salon in Imperial Beach, California, and she wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. She’s seen her regulars for decades, cutting and styling their hair through weddings, graduations and more. 

Carmen's Beauty Salon

My mother-in-law giving my son a trim at her salon. 

But in 2020, being a hairstylist—or any type of business owner—is tough. She is just one of the more than 30 million small business owners across the country who are struggling with the impact from the global pandemic. In many cases they are also trying to juggle other responsibilities like distance learning, taking care of sick or elderly family members and simply making ends meet. People like my Nana have been top of mind for me as we all cope with our current reality.

As we kick off Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to celebrate Latino culture, regardless of who you are or how you identify—whether it’s Hispanic, Latinx, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Black, Brazilian, Latino or any other way.  I also can't help but try to buscarle, which means to find a way around a problem or challenge, how to help small businesses like my Nana’s hair salon. And I'm glad to say Google is finding a way, too.

Today, we’re announcing a $3 million Google.org grant to the Hispanics in Philanthropy PowerUp Fund, to directly support hundreds of Latino-owned small businesses with access to capital and the training they need to successfully recover and continue to grow. This grant builds on Google’s $180 million commitment to support minority- and women-led small businesses across the country through the Grow with Google Small Business Fund and Google.org Grants Program.

We’re also providing free tools and training to help any Latino-owned businesses adapt and grow through Grow with Google’s "Paso a Paso" workshops and online training programs. Businesses can sign up for our new Google Ads workshop in Spanish, a special panel featuring resilient Latino entrepreneurs via OnAir En Español and continue their digital marketing training with Primer app minicourses in English or Spanish. We’re expanding our Digital Coaches program and kicking off a partnership with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce so Latino-owned businesses can get more localized support in their communities.

Beyond helping small businesses, we have lots more in store during Hispanic Heritage Month at Google. I encourage you to explore our updated Latino Cultures in the U.S. collection within Google Arts & Culture, where J. Balvin can share with you the untold story behind Fernando Botero’s “July 20th." Also, be on the lookout for our collaboration with Pop-Up Magazine, where we’ll celebrate Latinos across the country through virtual storytelling and art.

You'll also see us spotlighting Latino businesses around the country in our new "Buscándole" national campaign encouraging people to support neighborhood businesses. And today's Doodle features Felicitas Mendez, a Puerto Rican American civil rights pioneer who was a small business owner herself. Combined, we hope all these efforts can not only celebrate the Latino community during Hispanic Heritage Month, but also help members of our community thrive for the long term.

Why digital tools are a safety net for small businesses

For businesses trying to stay afloat, like Morgan Miller Plumbing in Grandview, Missouri, digital tools are instrumental. While the onset of COVID-19 was full of unknowns, CEO Stella Crewse says it gave her an opportunity to make her business stronger. “This experience has given us the confidence that we will be able to continue operations seamlessly no matter what comes our way,” Stella says.

Stella’s company was already using digital tools when COVID-19 hit, but in recent months has realized how necessary they are. Her team uses G Suite to share documents and stay organized and video conferencing to stay connected. They’ve even used  Google Maps to identify new sewer line paths without leaving the office in order to follow social distancing guidelines. 

A new report, released today by the Connected Commerce Council in partnership with Google, shows how a “digital safety net” can serve as a support system for small businesses like Morgan Miller Plumbing, and helps to mitigate the negative business effects of COVID-19.

According to the report, practically all small businesses—93 percent—were disrupted by the pandemic, facing reduced customer demand and hours of operations as well as employee layoffs. Eighty-five percent of small businesses say COVID–19 made them rethink their approach to digital tools, allowing them to adapt. 

The study also found that businesses that had a digital safety net in place and used a variety of digital tools—like digital ads, digital payments, data analytics and customer insights tools—not only felt better prepared, but also experienced dramatically better business outcomes, expecting less than a quarter of the revenue reduction compared to their digitally unprepared counterparts. And states with a higher share of digitally prepared businesses anticipate better revenue outcomes in 2020.
Drivers business index v. Projected revenue loss SMBs

This research also found that small business leaders of color have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic and are roughly half as likely as white-run businesses to have received aid through public loans for their business needs. Businesses that have remained open despite a lack of funding attribute their resilience to embracing technology.

The crisis expedited digital momentum for small businesses: Nearly three-in-four increased their use of digital tools, particularly video conferencing, over the last five months. But not all American small- and medium-sized businesses have a digital safety net. To best serve the needs of every business, we’re introducing new Grow with Google lessons, helping business owners learn how to build an online presence, find more customers, sell online or work remotely. The content varies from two-minute tutorial videos to live workshops, and ranges from beginner level to advanced, so every business can find what they need to become more prepared. 

On the Google for Small Business website, business owners can find personalized Google product recommendations for their business, as well as helpful tips and practical guides to help small businesses get the most of these tools. 

And to reach even more small businesses, Grow with Google is partnering with SCORE and the International Downtown Association(iDA)  to complete a series of affordable and easily accessible Grow with Google workshops for 50,000 small businesses across the U.S. We will continue our partnerships with more than 7,500 organizations to bring virtual training events to local communities across the country. 

With this plan, we’re hopeful we’ll be able to help more leaders like Stella acquire the digital skills they need to help their business recover and grow moving forward. 

Google supports COVID-19 AI and data analytics projects

Nonprofits, universities and other academic institutions around the world are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics to help us better understand COVID-19 and its impact on communities—especially vulnerable populations and healthcare workers. To support this work, Google.org is giving more than $8.5 million to 31 organizations around the world to aid in COVID-19 response. Three of these organizations will also receive the pro-bono support of Google.org Fellowship teams

This funding is part of Google.org’s $100 million commitment to COVID-19 relief and focuses on four key areas where new information and action is needed to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic.


Monitoring and forecasting disease spread

Understanding the spread of COVID-19 is critical to informing public health decisions and lessening its impact on communities. We’re supporting the development of data platforms to help model disease and projects that explore the use of diverse public datasets to more accurately predict the spread of the virus.


Improving health equity and minimizing secondary effects of the pandemic

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on vulnerable populations. To address health disparities and drive equitable outcomes, we’re supporting efforts to map the social and environmental drivers of COVID-19 impact, such as race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status. In addition to learning more about the immediate health effects of COVID-19, we’re also supporting work that seeks to better understand and reduce the long-term, indirect effects of the virus—ranging from challenges with mental health to delays in preventive care.


Slowing transmission by advancing the science of contact tracing and environmental sensing

Contact tracing is a valuable tool to slow the spread of disease. Public health officials around the world are using digital tools to help with contact tracing. Google.org is supporting projects that advance science in this important area, including research investigating how to improve exposure risk assessments while preserving privacy and security. We’re also supporting related research to understand how COVID-19 might spread in public spaces, like transit systems.


Supporting healthcare workers

Whether it’s working to meet the increased demand for acute patient care, adapting to rapidly changing protocols or navigating personal mental and physical wellbeing, healthcare workers face complex challenges on the frontlines. We’re supporting organizations that are focused on helping healthcare workers quickly adopt new protocols, deliver more efficient care, and better serve vulnerable populations. 

Together, these organizations are helping make the community’s response to the pandemic more advanced and inclusive, and we’re proud to support these efforts. You can find information about the organizations Google.org is supporting below.  

Monitoring and forecasting disease spread

  • Carnegie Mellon University*: informing public health officials with interactive maps that display real-time COVID-19 data from sources such as web surveys and other publicly-available data.

  • Keio University: investigating the reliability of large-scale surveys in helping model the spread of COVID-19.

  • University College London:modeling the prevalence of COVID-19 and understanding its impact using publicly-available aggregated, anonymized search trends data.  

  • Boston Children's Hospital, Oxford University, Northeastern University*: building a platform to support accurate and trusted public health data for researchers, public health officials and citizens.

  • Tel Aviv University: developing simulation models using synthetic data to investigate the spread of COVID-19 in Israel.

  • Kampala International University, Stanford University, Leiden University, GO FAIR: implementing data sharing standards and platforms for disease modeling for institutions across Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. 

Improving health equity and minimizing secondary effects of the pandemic 

  • Morehouse School of Medicine’s Satcher Health Leadership Institute*: developing an interactive, public-facing COVID-19 Health Equity Tracker of the United States. 

  • Florida A&M University, Shaw University: examining structural social determinants of health and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in communities of color in Florida and North Carolina.

  • Boston University School of Public Health:investigating the drivers of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in the causes and consequences of COVID-19, with a focus on Massachusetts.

  • University of North Carolina, Vanderbilt University:investigating molecular mechanisms underlying susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 and variability in COVID-19 outcomes in Hispanic/Latinx populations. 

  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: quantifying the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare not directly associated with the virus, such as delayed routine or preventative care.

  • Georgia Institute of Technology:investigating opportunities for vulnerable populations to find information related to COVID-19. 

  • Cornell Tech:developing digital tools and resources for advocates and survivors of intimate partner violence during COVID-19. 

  • University of Michigan School of Information: evaluating health equity impacts of the rapid virtualization of primary healthcare. 

  • Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar: modeling the impact of air pollution on COVID-related secondary health exacerbations. 

  • Cornell University, EURECOM:developing scalable and explainable methods for verifying claims and identifying misinformation about COVID-19.

Slowing transmission by advancing the science of contact tracing and environmental sensing

  • Arizona State University:applying federated analytics (a state-of-the-art, privacy-preserving analytic technique) to contact tracing, including an on-campus pilot.

  • Stanford University:applying sparse secure aggregation to detect emerging hotspots.

  • University of Virginia, Princeton University, University of Maryland:designing and analyzing effective digital contact tracing methods. 

  • University of Washington: investigating environmental SARS-CoV-2 detection and filtration methods in bus lines and other public spaces. 

  • Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru:mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in India’s transit systems with rapid testing and modified commuter patterns. 

  • TU Berlin, University of Luxembourg:using quantum mechanics and machine learning to understand the binding of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to human cells—a key process in COVID-19 infection.

Supporting healthcare workers 

  • Medic Mobile, Dimagi: developing data analytics tools to support frontline health workers in countries such as India and Kenya.

  • Global Strategies:developing software to support healthcare workers adopting COVID-19 protocols in underserved, rural populations in the U.S., including Native American communities. 

  • C Minds:creating an open-source, AI-based support system for clinical trials related to COVID-19.  

  • Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein:supporting and integrating community health workers and volunteers to help deliver mental health services and monitor outcomes in one of Brazil's most vulnerable communities.

  • Fiocruz Bahia, Federal University of Bahia:establishing an AI platform for research and information-sharing related to COVID-19 in Brazil.

  • RAD-AID:creating and managing a data lake for institutions in low- and middle-income countries to pool anonymized data and access AI tools.  

  • Yonsei University College of Medicine: scaling and distributing decision support systems for patients and doctors to better predict hospitalization and intensive care needs due to COVID-19.

  • University of California Berkeley and Gladstone Institutes: developing rapid at-home CRISPR-based COVID-19 diagnostic tests using cell phone technology. 

  • Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia:enabling open-source access to anonymized COVID-19 chest X-ray and clinical data, and researching image analysis for early diagnosis and prognosis.

*Recipient of a Google.org Fellowship 

When a crisis happens, Google.org’s Alex Diaz steps up

Alex Diaz.JPG

After Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas last year, Alex Diaz and his colleagues at Google.org took action. A team of Google volunteers on the Google.org Crisis Connectivity team spent 80 days in the field, helping to bring back Internet connectivity in dozens of locations. Residents were able to access critical information, connect with family members and simply de-stress by going online. 

More recently, Alex and his team worked with GiveDirectly for their Project 100 cash transfer project for COVID-19 relief. This time, the work he did was personal. “For many of my early years I was supported by my biological mother while my father was incarcerated,” he says. “We were often cash-strapped. Unplanned sudden financial shocks always had long-term ramifications.” During this ongoing crisis, he saw the immediate benefits of giving cash directly to families in need. 

Alex leads the Crisis Response and Humanitarian Aid portfolio at Google.org. He manages Google’s philanthropic response to global crises, such as natural disasters and public health emergencies, providing nonprofits on the frontlines with funding, volunteers, and other support. Here’s how he explains the work he does, and how tech and philanthropy can work together.

What does “crisis response” philanthropy mean at Google.org?

At our core, we back tech-enabled projects that help communities better prepare, respond and recover from crises. We make grants, encourage Googlers to donate (with a company match) and send our skilled volunteers to the communities that need it most. To have the greatest impact, we rely on strong partnerships with nonprofit organizations around the world which are preparing communities for disasters or delivering relief and recovery efforts. These organizations are the experts; we learn about their needs and search for where our philanthropic capital, coupled with technology, can help make the biggest difference. 

How does Google.org approach a crisis? 

We dedicate resources to stand with communities along the disaster cycle, from preparedness ahead of crises, to immediate relief after a crisis strikes, all the way through long-term recovery. Research continues to show that long-term support, particularly to local NGOs, is vital to a community’s recovery. Long after the media attention goes away, communities require ongoing, flexible funding to rebuild and to heal.

While philanthropy is important to support the efforts of frontline organizations, Google.org’s greatest asset is our technical talent. We often pair our grants with technical volunteers or pro bono support. One example is a project with GiveDirectly, in which we paired a $3 million grant with full-time support from Google engineers through the Google.org Fellowship program. That work supported a tool that will help target direct cash transfers to low-income families after a future U.S.-based natural disaster. The Google.org Fellows created a data-mapping tool that layers socioeconomic vulnerability data with disaster damage data to more quickly locate the pockets of highest need in an affected area. 

We also help manage a team of volunteers under our Google.org Crisis Connectivity program, who go to disaster-affected places with partners like NetHope and ITDRC to install temporary internet connectivity in critical locations such as shelters, clinics and schools.

That sounds challenging. What’s the hardest part about your job?

My job can take a personal toll. Reading about and working on crises 24/7 can add up. In some form or another I’ve worked on crises since starting at Google in 2016, and while I’ve learned to process complex emotions on the job, I would be lying if I said there were not moments where crises got the best of me. Thankfully, our company provides employees with great resources to help, and our team has created a culture of support to navigate these moments effectively. 

Another difficult aspect of the job is that even at a large company like Google, our resources will still never be enough to match the scale of global need every year. We can’t respond to every crisis, although we’d love to. So we look for the sweet spot where our philanthropy and technical expertise can make the most impact.

Everyone can do something. I think that's really the underlying message of this COVID-19 response—we're in this together.

How has responding to COVID-19 been different from past crises?

For all disasters, the needs are normally greater than the resources we have at hand. This is especially true with COVID-19, and it is affecting everyone in every corner of the globe simultaneously. During “normal” crises such as natural disasters, responding organizations or governments often reallocate resources to different parts of the world or country to support affected areas. That isn't possible with a global pandemic. The needs are so vast, diverse and geographically diffuse. We’ve tried to stick to areas where we can use our expertise: health and science, distance learning and economic relief and recovery.

What’s your advice to people who are looking to donate money in a crisis? How about during the pandemic?


Ask yourself: Is the solution you want to support better, however you define better, than simply giving people the equivalent in cash? Direct cash transfers are efficient and effective. Research shows that cash has a strong track record in effectively supporting some of the most vulnerable communities, and recipients largely prefer it over traditional forms of aid. GiveDirectly led the way in testing the efficacy of direct cash transfers in the humanitarian sector and as a disaster relief tool


With respect to COVID-19 relief, the needs are enormous. I’d encourage potential donors to pick their area of concern or passion, whether that is food assistance or support for our frontline healthcare workers, and to channel support locally or to the nearest area of greatest need.  Everyone can do something. I think that's really the underlying message of this COVID-19 response—we're in this together. 

We’ve learned from the way COVID-19 disproportionately affects Black and brown Americans that we’re really dealing with intersecting crises involving both health and race. How do you think about centering equity in your work?


I am Afro-Latinx. I have been the target of racial profiling by police. Even still, I am protected by my privilege of being lighter skinned. My heart goes out to my Black sisters and brothers who have endured so much pain through several difficult weeks, after several difficult months, after several horrifying centuries. What the world witnessed in an eight-minute video of George Floyd’s murder is the community’s everyday experience. Everyone needs to step up to ensure that equal justice under the law is more than just a value, but a reality. As Cornel West says, “justice is what love looks like in public.”


Equity is at the core of grantmaking at Google.org, and crisis grantmaking is no exception. To effectively respond to intersecting crises, we first need to acknowledge that race is a critical intersection. After we’ve acknowledged this reality, it is imperative to understand what it means and why, and to do this, we need data. Data that informs not only our understanding of the problem, but also what can be done to promote more equitable solutions. This is the primary motivation behind our recent $1 million grant and Google.org Fellowship to the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine. 

The Morehouse team, with support from Google.org Fellows, is planning to assemble a data consortium and develop a platform to map data related to racial and ethnic groups, socioeconomic status, medical conditions and health system access at the county level in order to examine the trajectory of COVID-19 cases and deaths across the United States. This work will hopefully allow researchers and policymakers to understand the impact of the virus on communities of color and inform effective and equitable policymaking in government response efforts. This is just a tiny step of the many steps we as a society need to take to move our country closer to the ideals that bind us.

Closing data gaps with Lacuna Fund

Machine learning has shown enormous promise for social good, whether in helping respond to global health pandemics or reach citizens before natural disasters hit. But even as machine learning technology becomes increasingly accessible, social innovators still face significant barriers in their efforts to use this technology to unlock new solutions. From languages to health and agriculture, there is a lack of relevant, labeled data to represent and address the challenges that face much of the world's population.

To help close this gap, Google.org is making a $2.5 million grant alongside The Rockefeller Foundation, Canada’s International Development Resource Center (IDRC) and Germany’s GiZ FAIR Forward to launch Lacuna Fund, the world’s first collaborative nonprofit effort to directly address this missing data. The Fund aims to unlock the power of machine learning by providing data scientists, researchers, and social entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income communities around the world with resources to produce labeled datasets that address urgent problems.  

Labeled data is a particular type of data that is useful in generating machine learning models: This data provides the “ground truth” that a model can use to guess about cases that it hasn’t yet seen. To create a labeled dataset, example data is systematically “tagged” by knowledgeable humans with one or more concepts or entities each one represents. For example, a researcher might label short videos of insects with their type; images of fungi with whether or not they are harmful to plants around them; or passages of Swahili text with the parts of speech that each word represents. In turn, these datasets could enable biologists to track insect migration; farmers to accurately identify threats to their crops; and Swahili speakers to use an automated text messaging service to get vital health information.  

Guided by committees of domain and machine learning experts and facilitated by Meridian Institute, the Fund will provide resources and support to produce new labeled datasets, as well as augment or update existing ones to be more representative, relevant and sustainable. The Fund’s initial work will focus on agriculture and underrepresented languages, but we welcome additional collaborators and anticipate the fund will grow in the years to come. And our work is bigger than just individual datasets: Lacuna Fund will focus explicitly on growing the capacity of local organizations to be data collectors, curators and owners. While following best practices for responsible collection, publication and use, we endeavor to make all datasets as broadly available as possible.

Thanks in part to the rise of cloud computing, in particular services like Cloud AutoML and libraries like TensorFlow, AI is increasingly able to help address society’s most pressing issues. Yet we’ve seen firsthand in our work on the Google AI Impact Challenge the gap between the potential of AI and the ability to successfully implement it. The need for data is quickly becoming one of the most salient barriers to progress. It’s our hope that the Fund provides not only a way for social sector organizations to fund high-impact, immediately-applicable data collection and labeling, but also a foundation from which changemakers can build a better future.

Image at top: A team from AI Challenge Grantee Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence in India is working with local farmers to manage pest damage to crop.

A year of work on the Bay Area’s housing and homeless crises

Today, we’re marking the one-year anniversary of our Bay Area housing commitment. Since last year, we’ve met with hundreds of advocates, developers and community leaders to understand how to quickly create affordable housing and support solutions to homelessness. In the Bay area, there’s a severe housing shortage of nearly 500,000 affordable units and the  homelessness crisis affects around 35,000 people. So we focused our efforts on two areas: grants to assist people experiencing homelessness and investments to produce more affordable housing. 

With last year’s commitments and the announcements below, we’ve allocated a total of $115 million from our $250 million investment fund, which we expect will help create around 24,000 new affordable housing units—both conventional and modular—by 2029. In addition, Google.org has granted $7.75 million to nonprofits on the front lines of homelessness. 

Google.org’s $50 million pledge 

Google.org’s grants to Bay Area nonprofits are projected to support more than 33,000 people with services like food distribution, job training, case management, and house 9,000 of those individuals over the span of four years. Google.org has supported solutions to homelessnessfor years and learned that the “Housing First” approach is the best way to help the homeless community. They will continue to support this approach with their new grants. 

Our $250 million investment fund

This past year we provided early and reliable capital to affordable housing projects, like The Kelsey Ayer Station, from our $250 million investment fund. Based in San José, The Kelsey Ayer Station will offer 115 homes for people with a range of incomes and 25 percent of the community is specifically reserved for people with disabilities. 

A rendering of The Kelsey Ayer Station in San José, California

A rendering of The Kelsey Ayer Station in San José, California. Image credit: The Kelsey.

We also committed $50 million to Housing Trust Silicon Valley’s TECH Fund to help build more affordable units quickly. So far, Housing Trust has invested these funds in six projects throughout the Bay Area with more to come. We’re encouraged that some housing developments that we invested in are already expected to break ground in 2021. 

As we focus on helping the Bay Area build more homes, we’re making two more commitments from our $250 million investment fund. 

Reinvesting in Housing Trust 

We’ve committed another $50 million to Housing Trust to establish the Launch Initiative. Funded 90 percent by Google, the initiative will give us—along with Housing Trust—opportunities to invest in a broader range of affordable housing projects. We’ve already seen progress with investments in two developments that are expected to create 150 homes: Alum Rock by Charities Housing in San Jose and Newark Timber by Eden Housing in Alameda County. In total, we’re estimating that this initiative will create 4,000 affordable units.

Supporting modular technology 

Modular housing is another opportunity to greatly increase the Bay Area’s housing supply. It’s faster and less expensive than conventional construction, two characteristics that are often unheard of in California’s housing industry. So, we’re looking into modular housing options for our investments. 

Workers are manufacturing a modular home.

Inside Factory_OS’ facility where workers are manufacturing a modular home. Image credit: Nancy Holliday.

As one example, we’ve been working with modular housing companies like Factory_OS. With our support, Factory_OS expects to double its production capacity by building a second factory, with a goal of creating tens of thousands affordable housing units over the next decade, including around 700 multi-family modular homes in Oakland and San Francisco by early 2021. 

Looking ahead

Over the last year, we’ve made progress proposing plans where residential units, offices, retail, and parks will coexist on our land. We’re working closely with elected officials and residents on proposals in Mountain View and have submitted our San José Downtown West mixed-use plan

We’ll continue working with our communities, local leaders, and elected officials like Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA 18th District) on solutions for the Bay Area. As she’s said, “We need an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to the homelessness and housing crises, particularly as COVID-19 continues to create long-term economic uncertainty and expose the dramatic inequities in our society. I look forward to continuing to work with Google to invest in our local communities and build a better future for our region.”


Header image credit: Affirmed Housing 

Our Housing First approach to homelessness in the Bay Area

In the California Bay Area, it’s estimated that there are more than 35,000 people who are homeless, making it the third largest region for homelessness in the country. The pandemic has only exacerbated this crisis. 

Last year, we made a $1 billion commitment to accelerate the production of affordable housing in the Bay Area, and Google.org made a pledge to grant $50 million to community organizations working on the front lines. Google.org has since granted $7.75 million to nonprofits, to support more than 33,000 people with services like mental health care, food distribution and job training, and to house 9,000 of those individuals over the span of four years. 


We know nonprofits need more support to keep fighting this growing crisis. So today we’re announcing $4 million in new grants to local organizations that are helping and solving homelessness for families, youth and vulnerable communities: Larkin Street Youth Services, Abode Services and Sunnyvale Community Services (SCS)

A Housing First approach

Going back to 2009, Google.org has given more than $24 million in grants to nonprofits that provide homeless services. During this time we've learned that the best way to help the homeless community is with a “Housing First” approach.

Historically, in order to access housing, people have been required to meet a certain criteria, including participating in programs like job training or drug rehab, before they were able to qualify for housing. This can be difficult for an individual living on the street, which can mean that they forgo programs that could help them. With a Housing First approach, people are provided with a stable place to live first—whether it’s emergency, short-term and long-term housing. Then, they receive other support such as mental health care, drug rehab, food assistance, or job training programs. Hamilton Families, a Google.org grantee that uses this support model, has seen 87 percent of program participants stay housed once their program support ends.

Two of today’s grantees, Larkin Street and Abode Services, have had particular success with this approach. This has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, given the added risk of contracting the virus among people who are on the streets or in homelessness encampments. For example, Larkin Street and their partners secured a hotel in San Francisco to house homeless youth who have been deprioritized from housing waitlists.  

With Google’s broader commitment to increasing the stock of affordable housing in the Bay Area, and more funding for nonprofits who follow the Housing First model, we’re hopeful we can be part of the solution. 

Creating more inclusive classrooms

Education is a critical element of our ongoing commitments to racial equity. Classrooms offer a space to imagine and encourage a more equitable and just future. This is not new work, but following the heinous deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many other Black members of our communities, there’s an even greater sense of urgency to make progress toward creating this future together. 

Building on last year’s $5 million Google.org grant to help DonorsChoose launch #ISeeMe—an effort to lift up the diverse identities of teachers and students in their classrooms—we’re now providing an additional $1 million to support Black and Latinx teachers, as well as any teacher seeking materials to make their classrooms more inclusive.

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Curated list of teacher-facing materials and evaluation criteria from The Conscious Kid

As teachers across the country aspire to build more inclusive classrooms, books are practical and effective tools to affirm diverse student identities. That’s why we’ve also teamed up with experts at The Conscious Kid to curate a list of teacher-facing reading materials as well as evaluation criteria to consider when bringing new resources into the classroom. Suggested by grade level, these resources are intended to help facilitate important conversations about racism, equity and belonging. The Conscious Kid’s selections are informed by intersectional race-centered approaches including Critical Race Theory and Critical Race Media Literacy, which examine representation in the content, as well as the power dynamics behind the ownership, production and creation of it.

But we also know that books alone are not enough. When I taught Pre-K, most of my students couldn’t see themselves in me. As a white woman teaching students of color, I couldn’t reflect their identities or lived experiences. And this same dynamic plays out in classrooms across the country. In fact, while a majority of America’s public school students are students of color, fewer than 20 percent of our nation’s teachers are teachers of color. But it’s vital for students to have educators who look like them: research shows that Black students are 33 percent less likely to drop out if they have just one Black teacher between third and fifth grade. And while seeing themselves in their teachers is especially significant for Black and Latinx students, all students benefit from having even one teacher of color. 

The crucial tasks of growing the number of Black and Latinx educators and retaining them in the classroom will require many interventions including elevating their voices, shifting school culture, and increasing access to resources and peer communities. Part of our grant to DonorsChoose will fund research led by Ed Trust which aims to inform concrete actions we can all take across these areas, after first listening to and learning from the experiences of Black and Latinx teachers. 

To create change and ensure education lives up to its promise, it will take many organizations working together. We’re grateful for the work of DonorsChoose, The Conscious Kid, and Ed Trust and view this as a step in our ongoing journey toward cultivating more diverse and inclusive classrooms.